The Tehillim (Book of Psalms) has occupied a special place in our heart throughout the centuries. Perhaps Jews faced communal tragedies from persecutions in the ghettos or the Mellah. Perhaps it was pogroms, or experiencing personal trials, illnesses, or death. Collective or private pains have found in this unique source comfort and hope that Hashem will not abandon us.
Some Psalms in particular have acquired special meaning, like Psalm 121, the one that says: אֶשָּׂא עֵינַי, אֶל-הֶהָרִים– מֵאַיִן, יָבֹא עֶזְרִי, I will lift up mine eyes unto the mountains: from whence shall my help come?
Psalm 121 was chosen to be read by Rabbi Shearyashuv Cohen, the chief rabbi of Haifa in the presence of King Hussein 1st, Yitzhak Rabin and President Bill Clinton on October 24, 1994 on the occasion of the signing of the Peace Accord between Jordan and Israel. Perhaps it was premonition of history as it would unfold in the years that followed that motivated Rabbi Cohen to choose this particular psalm: The next verse says: עֶזְרִי, מֵעִם ה My help comes from the L-RD
And then of course there is Psalm 23.
I bet you have never thought or looked at Psalm 23 in this way even though you heard it again and again, or even recited it perhaps yourself.
Take another look at it again:
מִזְמוֹר לְדָוִד: -ה רֹעִי, לֹא אֶחְסָר. 1 A Psalm of David. Hashem is my shepherd; I shall not want.
That speaks of the personal relationship that Hashem has with you
ב בִּנְאוֹת דֶּשֶׁא, יַרְבִּיצֵנִי; עַל-מֵי מְנֻחוֹת יְנַהֲלֵנִי. 2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.
That is His promise to you of rest and refreshment in the midst of the turbulence in your life.
ג נַפְשִׁי יְשׁוֹבֵב; יַנְחֵנִי בְמַעְגְּלֵי-צֶדֶק, לְמַעַן שְׁמוֹ. 3 He restores my soul; He guides me in straight paths for His name’s sake.
That is His shining light that guides you when all else around you is darkness…
ד גַּם כִּי-אֵלֵךְ בְּגֵיא צַלְמָוֶת, לֹא-אִירָא רָע– 4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil,
…Even in a world that makes no sense to you anymore.
כִּי-אַתָּה עִמָּדִי; שִׁבְטְךָ וּמִשְׁעַנְתֶּךָ, הֵמָּה יְנַחֲמֻנִי. For Thou art with me;
Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me.
This is His eternal promise that He will never abandon you.
ה תַּעֲרֹךְ לְפָנַי, שֻׁלְחָן– נֶגֶד צֹרְרָי; 5 Thou prepared a table before me in the presence of mine enemies
“Why are all these things happening to me?” Hashem is testing you…
דִּשַּׁנְתָּ בַשֶּׁמֶן רֹאשִׁי, כּוֹסִי רְוָיָה. Thou have anointed my head with oil; my cup runs over.
For even in these difficult moments though it seems not, Hashem is healing you.
ו אַךְ, טוֹב וָחֶסֶד יִרְדְּפוּנִי– כָּל-יְמֵי חַיָּי; 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life
This is an affirmation of your faith in Hashem’s eternal goodness,…
וְשַׁבְתִּי בְּבֵית-הand I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
And His assurance to you that you shall dwell in the shelter of His protection…
לְאֹרֶךְ יָמִים. Forever.
May it be so!
The word mellah refers to a walled Jewish quarter of a city in Morocco, an analogue of the European ghetto. It has come to mean for Sephardim Jews a “salted, cursed ground”. On May 14, 1465, Jewish inhabitants of the Mellah of Fez were nearly all killed. Jews in Arab and Muslim countries suffered episodic attacks at the hands of their Muslim neighbors.